Hamilton leads all the way in France

Hamilton makes it look easy
With no competition from Vettel, Hamilton makes it look easy

Lewis Hamilton drove his Mercedes to an easy 7-second win over Red Bull's Max Verstappen to win the French GP after Sebastian Vettel tangled with the 2nd Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in Turn 1 at the start damaging his front win and giving Bottas a flat left rear.

Vettel received a 5-second penalty for the contact with Bottas.

Kimi Raikkonen finished third while Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel's Ferrari rounded out the top-5.

Vettel changed from Ultra-Softs to Mediums on lap 1 when he changed his wing and had to nurse them all the way home, which he did.

Hamilton retakes the point lead over Vettel 145 to 131 and Vettel has no one to blame but himself.

With debris scattered across the track after the lap 1 carnage, the Safety Car was called into action with Hamilton leading from Verstappen, who bailed out to avoid the chaos and rejoined in second, and Renault's Carlos Sainz, who had gained a remarkable six places. At the restart, Hamilton comfortably retained the lead.

Vettel and Bottas, meanwhile, were on a charge. The duo, having been fitted with a new front wing and right rear tire respectively plus fresh soft tires, carved their way up through the field. As they would not theoretically have to stop again, after fitting soft tires, they soon found themselves in the top 10 as others dived into the pits to rid themselves of the ultrasofts or supersofts.

Up front, Verstappen was the first of the leaders to blink, diving into the pits for soft tires. Crucially, he rejoined ahead of Vettel, who had battled up to fourth. His team mate Daniel Ricciardo, who had passed Sainz for third, pitted a couple of laps later, couldn’t repeat the trick and rejoined in fifth.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Noting Vettel’s good progress, it was 'Hammertime' for Hamilton, the four-time world champion pumping in a succession of fastest laps to rapidly quadruple his lead to around eight seconds. It meant that by the time he pitted, he could comfortably rejoin ahead of Verstappen, momentarily handing the lead to Raikkonen, who had chosen to run deep into the race.

When the Ferrari driver pitted he took on the supersoft tires, with all of his rivals on the more durable soft rubber, and rejoined in fifth, ahead of Bottas, who Mercedes reported was running with damage to the floor that subsequently led to a loss of downforce and shift in balance.

Ricciardo made the most of his fresh tires to outbrake Vettel into Turn 11 and snatch the final podium position back. The German then lost another position to his team mate Raikkonen, who was a couple of seconds a lap quicker on the supersofts.

Mercedes opted to pit Bottas and fit the supersofts, but they had a problem removing the right rear that significantly delayed him. The Finn rejoined in ninth, losing three places. Vettel followed suit on the next lap, but took the ultrasofts and his five-second time penalty for colliding with Bottas, and still stayed fifth to set up a grandstand finish.

Both Ferraris were lighting up the timesheets, but while Vettel was too far adrift, Raikkonen smelt a podium as he homed in on Ricciardo, who was struggling with front wing damage from debris, according to Red Bull boss Christian Horner. The Finn quickly caught the Australian and after swarming all over the Red Bull’s gearbox, he pulled the trigger into the chicane.

Ricciardo took fourth, well clear of Vettel, while Sainz was set for a brilliant sixth before suffering a power problem with three laps to go. Kevin Magnussen in the Haas and Bottas slipped by but Sainz held on to eighth, ahead of Renault team mate Nico Hulkenberg.

Charles Leclerc, who had made Q3 for the first time in his career, rose as high as sixth at the start and though his challenge faded, he drove brilliantly to take 10th for Sauber – his fourth points finish in five races. Romain Grosjean was the best-placed home driver, finishing just outside the points for Haas in 11th, the Frenchman having picked up a five-second time penalty for contact with compatriot Ocon on the run to Turn 1 at the start. His wait for a first point of 2018 continues.

Force India's Sergio Perez retired with an engine problem, while Williams' Lance Stroll’s front-left tire failed with a couple of laps remaining, spraying debris across the track and sparking a virtual safety car that ended with just half a lap to go.

“I’m so happy for England, it’s a beautiful Sunday," said Hamilton on team radio as he crossed the line, referencing England’s commanding 6-1 victory over Panama in the football World Cup earlier in the day.

It was win number three of 2018 for Hamilton, who now leads the championship by 14 points from Vettel, while Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari in the constructors’ standings swelled by four points to 23 with 13 races still remaining.

Fightback for Ferrari
“Nose damage" shouted Vettel: just moments from the start, a collision with Bottas at Turn 1 produced damage that was clear to see. The Safety Car came out immediately because of a collision between Ocon and Gasly and the number 5 Ferrari pitted for a new nose, while Bottas also came in with a puncture. Vettel took on Softs, the hardest tire, in order to rejig the race strategy. Raikkonen was now seventh after also having a moment braking into the first corner.

5 laps later and the race was on again. Vettel went round the outside of Alonso, who spun and Raikkonen got the better of Leclerc. Vettel gained a further two places before use of DRS was authorized. Raikkonen passed Magnussen to go fifth. Vettel had just passed Vandoorne to close in on the points zone when the stewards handed him a 5 second penalty for the earlier collision. Further up the order, Raikkonen showed that the SF71H had a strong race pace as he next passed Sainz.

On lap 12, Vettel pulled a great passing move on Hulkenberg to go tenth and next on his list was Perez, followed by Grosjean. On lap 16, Raikkonen set the fastest lap, as Vettel now passed Leclerc and Magnussen for sixth place.

Lap 20 and Vettel got past Sainz, braking from 330 km/h at the chicane and he was clear of traffic. The aim was to get ahead of Verstappen when the Red Bull would pit, but was there was the added variable of the lurking threat of rain. Vettel asked which sector was costing him the most time. Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 25 and Vettel stuck right with him down the straight but also had to look after his tires at the halfway point.

At the start of lap 30, Ricciardo pitted and this time Vettel managed to stay ahead, without counting the penalty. With 20 laps to go, Hamilton pitted, which meant Raikkonen was leading, before he too pitted to change tires, going from Ultra to Supersoft. On fresher tires, Ricciardo managed to get ahead of Vettel who now found himself ahead of his team-mate. Then Raikkonen put in a super lap in 1’34"819 and soon after Vettel left the way clear for his team-mate who was racing Bottas. Indeed, it was Valtteri who came in for Supersofts but it was a slow stop. Ferrari reacted, bringing Vettel in for Ultrasofts, sitting there for longer to take the penalty too, comfortably maintaining his position.

Last few laps: Raikkonen was very quick and had Ricciardo in his sights, but there were backmarkers to be dealt with. The first scrap came at the start of lap 47 and then Raikkonen made the decisive move at the chicane and was in a podium position. Right at the end the Virtual Safety Car was used after Stroll went off. Scuderia Ferrari picked up 25 points, which one minute into the race had seemed an impossibility. It was down to the determination of the drivers and the cool headed approach of the guys on the pit wall.

Quotes

Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport

Lewis Hamilton (1st): "When you're constructive and criticize yourself, approach a challenge with new methods and a new-found determination, it's a great feeling to then get the result. But it's also disappointing for the team as we had the opportunity to take a 1-2, which is always incredible as you achieve your ultimate goal as a team. I was very comfortable with the balance this afternoon. Max had decent pace, but I could maintain the gap at around five seconds. The fresh engine put us back in line with everyone else who took a new PU in Canada and everybody in the team should be feeling happy today for the good work they have done. But there's a long way to go and we'll keep approaching the rest of the season like we approached today."

Valtteri Bottas (7th): "That was a shame because we had a strong car today as Lewis' result shows. But my race was lost in Turn One. I was on the outside going into it and I knew that keeping that line would put me on the inside for Turn Two. Then suddenly I got a hit from behind, had a puncture and damaged my floor. After that it was difficult as the car was quite damaged and I could feel the lack of rear end. I was sliding around and had to do a second pit stop which was unfortunately slow so we lost more time there. I guess today was just not my day; in a way it sums up my season so far. But there are some positives – we were strong as a team, although unfortunately we could not turn that into a perfect points result. I also set the fastest lap of the race despite the condition of the car. I'll keep my head down, work hard and hopefully the luck will turn around at some point – I think it's about time."

James Allison, Technical Director: "It is hard to be unhappy on a day when you have won the race in fine style, both reclaiming the lead in the drivers' championship and extending our advantage in the constructors'. Lewis drove a splendid race and had everything under control throughout; it was a faultless performance. But it is hard not to feel very sorry for Valtteri, who also had a terrific weekend and saw his race compromised at Turn One through no fault of his own. On the bright side, though, the car performance was good all weekend and we can travel to Austria with the optimism that we can keep up the good work in the next races."

Toto Wolff: "This was a perfect way for Lewis to start the triple header and to bounce back from the disappointment of Canada. Whenever he has a tough weekend, he has this fantastic ability to bounce straight back, and we saw that again here in Paul Ricard. He pretty much controlled the whole race and didn't put a wheel wrong at any point. For Valtteri, it was a much tougher day: Sebastian clearly misjudged his braking for Turn One and made a mistake, which cost both him and Valtteri dearly. When the car stopped, we saw that the floor area around the tire was pretty badly damaged and flapping about – and Valtteri described the car balance as "shocking". Taking that into account, it was a battling performance from him, too. Overall, though, we leave seeing the positive side of our performance this weekend. The car was quick and with our upgrades, it felt like we made a step forward; thank you to everybody in the team who worked so hard to bring them to the track this weekend. But we can't afford to make any assumptions about what this means for the next races – it's still a three-way fight and we will need to be at our very best if we wish to repeat this performance."

Scuderia Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen (3rd): “My car was working well today and it was a pretty straightforward qualifying until my last run. I was not able to put a timed lap together in the whole of Q3. The first run was pretty decent, but then I went a bit sideways in turn 11, and lost time. After that I was not able to improve my lap time. For tomorrow we chose the strategy that we think is the best for us, but we have to wait and see. In other races we have seen people starting with different tires and it did not change things from night to day. For sure tomorrow will be a challenging day".

Sebastian Vettel (5th): “During the session", Seb explained “it was getting better and better and I was more confident. So, I think today we can be happy with the third place. My last run was not spectacular, though, and I don’t think it was good enough to put men the front row. After my first attempt in Q3, I had thought I could be closer to Mercedes and hoped to improve. But, unfortunately, in my last fast run I pushed a bit too much and made some mistakes here and there. Anyway, the car is good and we proved it. Let’s see what happens tomorrow, as we start with different tire strategies. I think the car should be strong in the race".

Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal:

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen (2nd): “Finishing second here in Paul Ricard is better than we expected coming into the weekend. As soon as we got to Turn 2 I was relieved not to have had contact, so from there it was just about managing my own race, which was fairly straightforward. I could see Lewis managing the pace but we were still not far off without pushing the car too much. I think we got the strategy spot on. The soft tires felt a little bit more robust and allowed me to find some good pace to make the final laps more comfortable. After two clean races and good result in a row it’s important to carry this momentum forward. We have had a third and now a second so with the right track I am looking forward to a victory. I missed a good chance in Monaco but there are still some good opportunities coming up, but to score good points for the team at circuits that are not ideal for us is a big positive. It was nice to race here in France, to hear the national anthem and see so many people in the grandstands made it feel like a traditional European grand prix."

Daniel Ricciardo (4th): “I’m obviously a bit disappointed and it’s a shame to lose out on the podium today. We were definitely quicker than fourth place and it could have been a good battle with Max. I don’t know why yet but the front wing was damaged during the race. Before the pit stop we had really good pace on the supersofts, I don’t know how good compared to Lewis as he was so quick, but it seemed that we were pulling away from Kimi and catching Max. Then about two laps before I stopped I had damage to the left part of the front wing; I felt some understeer immediately and I don’t know whether it was a failure or I hit some debris but the mechanics could see it during the stop. After the stop, the identical part on the right of the front wing also broke. Because of the damage we had less downforce, the car was understeering, and the tires were suffering. Kimi was always going to catch us at the end of the race with that pace, the blue flags were also pretty bad, but we were a wounded car. It was a shame as we looked quite strong today. The positive is that we got some decent points but we were definitely quicker than fourth and just unlucky this afternoon."

Christian Horner, Sporting Director: “In the end an entertaining grand prix and we are happy to come away from our first run at Paul Ricard with a good haul of points for the team and a podium. Max had a good strong drive to complete a very good weekend finishing in second place and achieving back to back to podiums following on from a third place in Canada. From the start he managed to avoid the collision between Sebastian and Valtteri at Turn 1 and then settle into second place with a good clean race from there. It was a shame for Daniel whose car was stricken around the mid-point in the race when the top two elements of his front flap became disbanded, possibly through hitting some debris. A very frustrating race for him as he also looked good for a podium place. In summary, the French Grand Prix represents a solid start to the triple-header and we go directly to our home race in Austria where we hope we can be as competitive there and take the fight to the leaders at the Red Bull Ring."

Sahara Force India F1 Team

Sergio Perez (18th): "It's disappointing to finish the race like this. We had a sudden drop in water pressure and had to retire the car. It's a shame because we had the opportunity to score a good amount of points and we leave empty-handed instead. I made a good start and kept clear of the incidents. I would have been eighth but Grosjean cut a few corners and got past me. We gave everything to try and get a result, but the luck wasn't on our side this weekend. We have upgrades coming for Austria and I hope they can make us more competitive for the next few races."

Esteban Ocon (19th): "A very disappointing day. I made a good start and got alongside Romain [Grosjean] down the pit straight before he made contact with me. I was on the edge of the track but he moved over and hit me, which caused a lot of damage to the side of my car and the floor. After that, Pierre [Gasly] lost it under braking in turn three and hit me from behind, which ended my race completely. I feel very sad right now because I have been looking forward to racing in front of my home crowd for such a long time and it only lasted three corners. The fans here have been amazing all weekend so I have to say a big 'thank you' for all the positive energy they have given me."

Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer: "It's not really been our weekend and seeing both cars retire from the race concludes a disappointing French Grand Prix. Esteban's race was very short and he was simply the innocent victim of other drivers' mistakes. The hit from Grosjean on the pit straight was totally unnecessary and unexpected, and caused significant damage to the floor of the car. Then being hit by Gasly caused even more damage and put Esteban out on the spot. Sergio escaped most of the opening lap carnage and was fighting for points until there was a rapid water pressure drop, which ended his race. We are still investigating the root cause of this issue."

Williams Martini Racing

Sergey Sirotkin (15th): "It was quite a busy race with some good battles. I had a bit of fun on the first lap, but obviously you want more pace so you can battle and overtake people, but today that was not the case. It would be more pleasant to battle rather than to protect, but still it was a step from qualifying. With our strategy we could fight the cars up to the very end of the race. I still think my race could have played out differently because I was just stuck behind the cars in front. It was costing me the brakes and the tires, and I wasn't able to do anything, which I think we could have done differently. I did what the team wanted me to do. We are where we are, it's not easy."

Lance Stroll (17th, Tire): "At the beginning the pace wasn't too bad and I had a good start. With about 20 laps to go I felt a massive vibration on the car and it was just big wear on the front-left tire. I had a flat spot on that tire and then with Vandoorne when he overtook me it was already so bad that I couldn't turn right, as I had no support on the left tire. Then with a few laps to go the vibration was so bad the tire just blew and that was it. It was optimistic to go the whole race on one set of tires, and I think we were the only ones trying to go the whole way. We tried to do something, but it just didn't work. It was certainly not the race we were hoping for."

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: "With the car pace, on both low and high fuel, it was always going to be extremely difficult, so we looked at what tactics could play out for us. We were reasonably confident that we would get a prime tire to do the full race distance which on Sergey's car, it did, so when we discussed it this morning, we thought we would stop on a first lap safety car. We did that in the hope that faster cars would pit and come out behind us and then it was a case of seeing if we could hold them up or not. We purposely put Sergey in a DRS train behind Lance in order that we could try and protect from Ericsson and Hartley coming through at the end. Unfortunately, at one-point Sergey lost the DRS and they both came through. We managed however with that strategy to stay out in front of Alonso which is a very small bonus in what's been an extremely difficult weekend. Lance was unfortunate with his puncture after enjoying a great start. Both drivers did a solid job for the team in attempting what they could to try and improve our finishing position. This is not what we want however, and we need to continue to work as a team to improve things."

Renault Sport Formula One Team

Carlos Sainz (8th):

Nico Hulkenberg (9th):

Alan Permane, Sporting Director:

Nick Chester, Technical Director:

Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director:

Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda

Brendon Hartley (14th): "It was a clean and good race, but starting last it was hard to make much headway. I had a good battle with Marcus early on, but he got me back during the pit stops. I kept out of trouble on the first lap – a couple of cars cut the chicane and I didn't make up much ground, but at least I was able to keep the car safe. I wish we could have made some more progress but ultimately we didn't have the pace today. I moved forward and got by the two Williams, but I don't think there was much more we could do in the race, it's tricky when you start at the back."

Pierre Gasly (20th): "I'm very disappointed, it was tough to finish the race after just three corners. In Turn 3 I went on the inside and I thought Esteban had seen me, when I saw he closed the door I couldn't avoid the collision. It's a shame to have this incident – especially at the French GP with two French drivers. It's very difficult to take, I really wanted to do well this weekend and it's definitely not wanted from my home race."

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: "This was a complicated weekend and it was extremely disappointing for us and also for all the French fans, that Pierre's race was over just a few moments after the start. Brendon, who started from the back of the grid because of the penalties incurred, moved up the order as others fell out and he also passed a few cars. A race to forget, but at least we can try and do better, starting this coming Friday in Austria."

Haas F1 Team

Kevin Magnussen (6th): “It was a good race and we had a good car. We got everything right. It was a good race for us, and very happy to come back from the disappointment of yesterday. We knew we were still standing in a position of where we could probably do something good in the race, and it was our day today. I was struggling quite a bit on the ultrasofts there in the first stint, just overheating and sliding around on the rears. For some reason, the front tires were working really well and the rear tires were struggling. Still, the degradation for us was quite low even though the balance was off. When we put the softs on, I kind of started out looking after them a little bit, which then when I got under pressure from Bottas, I really started pushing, and then the tires came alive even more and I found four-tenths, half a second more. It was just what I needed."

Romain Grosjean (11th): “We pushed as hard as we could, but we had some damage on the car from the first lap, and that was difficult because it removed some aero balance. I came back as hard as I could, but we were just too far back. The car is superfast and Kevin did a great job today, so I’m happy with that, but I want my turn to come because this stretch of bad luck is becoming a bit painful."

Gene Haas, Owner:

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “To finish sixth, we’re very happy about it. We were a little bit lucky that Carlos (Sainz) had an issue there at the end, and a little bit unlucky with Romain because he got a penalty. Now, I hope we can keep this going as we finally have the car where it should be."

McLaren F1 Team

Stoffel Vandoorne (12th): "For us to finish in the points would have required a fair bit of luck. We knew that, if no other cars got into trouble, points would be tough for us – and so it proved to be. Our pace today was definitely better than it was in qualifying yesterday. Once we can improve our Saturday pace, it should help push us further up the order in the races too. I had a decent race, I overtook Ericsson and Fernando at the end, so it was a positive afternoon for me. But we didn't get any points for the team, which is unfortunate. There's nothing particularly wrong with the balance of our car, it's just that our pace is not strong enough."

Fernando Alonso (16th, Suspension Damage): "I started this race on the back-foot, losing positions at the start as I avoided a lot of accidents around me. Too many cars ahead of me took a short-cut, but I stayed on track and ended up last. I was still last after the Safety Car period, had a problem with overheating brakes, then used one set of tires while running in traffic for nearly the whole race. Then, at the end, I had to retire with a suspension problem. In five days' time, we have another opportunity to forget today and raise our game. I really hope this weekend was a one-off and that we'll show better form at Spielberg and, in particular, at Silverstone. I know there are some new things coming over the next few months, and I'm still quite optimistic in spite of us being uncompetitive this weekend."

Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "It's difficult to look for positives after such a disappointing weekend, but it's encouraging that our pace was better in today's race than in qualifying yesterday. We need to look at how we can translate that to Saturday afternoons, as that will give us more of a fighting chance to compete on a Sunday. Still, both Stoffel and Fernando drove their hearts out today, they were faultless and relentless, always delivering to the maximum potential of the car. It's just frustrating when that effort goes unrewarded with points, but we know we still need to develop the car to make it a more consistent proposition on Sundays. Finally, I want to pay tribute to the fantastic crowd we witnessed here today. It's great to see the French Grand Prix back on the F1 calendar, and I felt extremely proud when I saw so many enthusiastic spectators enjoying the spectacle throughout the weekend. Let's hope the 2019 event builds on this year's successes."

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Charles Leclerc (10th): “Overall, I am satisfied with the outcome of this weekend. I had a great qualifying result yesterday, and felt confident in the car. Having scored another point for the team during the race today feels great. It was fun to drive, and I had some good fights with the drivers around me. We are moving in a positive direction, and improving our performance week by week. I really look forward to seeing what is possible next weekend."

Marcus Ericsson (13th): “I am quite happy with my race. It was a tough weekend, and having started after only running in FP1 and qualifying, we did a good job in getting on the pace during the race. I made a good start and I was able to evade the incident on the first lap and to gain positions. After that, I struggled with the balance of the car and didn’t advance as well as we hoped to. In the second half of the race, the car felt much better and things were running more smoothly. The tires were working better, and I closed the gap to the competitors ahead. We also had a very fast pit stop again. Now, we have to make sure that we understand what happened at the beginning of the race and come back even stronger in Austria next week."

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: “It has been a positive weekend for us. We had good pace in qualifying, and increased our pace step by step. Today, both of our drivers fought in the midfield during the race, and we are making good progress as a team. It is important for us to keep pushing and stay in the fight with our direct competition in the races ahead. We feel confident for the next Grand Prix in Austria."

Results

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS BEHIND
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 +0.000s
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 53 +7.090s
3 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 53 +25.888s
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 53 +34.736s
5 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 53 +61.935s
6 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 53 +79.364s
7 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 +80.632s
8 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 53 +87.184s
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 53 +91.989s
10 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 53 +93.873s
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 52 +1 lap
12 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 52 +1 lap
13 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 52 +1 lap
14 28 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Honda 52 +1 lap
15 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 52 +1 lap
16 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 50 DNF
17 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 48 DNF
NC 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 27 DNF
NC 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 0 DNF
NC 10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Honda 0 DNF

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